I met Galadima at a bus station in Maradi, a city in the middle of Niger on the border of Nigeria. It was early in the day but already hot, and I was mentally preparing for the 12-hour trip to Niamey on a bus without air conditioning or a bathroom. As I sat on the bench in the open air waiting for the bus, I noticed an older Nigerien man dressed in traditional clothing “holding court” with six or seven street boys. Galadima stands tall at about 6 feet 3 inches. He’s a lean man and this day he was carrying a walking stick – although the purpose of the stick seemed to be for illustrating points, not for walking. I could not understand the words because it was a local dialect, but it was obvious that everyone was enjoying themselves. Galadima spoke with volume, large hand gestures and a twinkle in his eye.
I’ve since learned that this is his approach to life in general. There was something else that was obvious to me. Galadima could see something in those street boys that most people don’t. He saw them as individuals and he recognized their potential. Now, eight years later, I can say with certainty and admiration, that he has a vision and passion for giving the children of his country opportunities to become the people that God created them to be.
I saw that passion again this past March as Galadima and other members of the construction committee gave me a tour of the new school building in Niamey, currently under construction. As we walked through the roofless classrooms, it was as if they could already picture the completed school with students engaged in learning. Their enthusiasm was infectious and motivating. This is their school and they are very proud of it. The committee members have made a lot of sacrifices in order to make the vision a reality. In addition to Galadima, Samuel, the pastor of the church, has played an important leadership role. And Oussenie, a distinguished architect with the government, has volunteered his time and skills as he oversees the construction. Moreover, the local church members have raised thousands of dollars to contribute to the cost of the project. When I asked the pastor if they would give more, he replied, “Yes, we’ll continue to raise funds until the school is complete.”
It is exciting to be a part of this project! Thanks to our dedicated supporters in the United States and around the world, we have had the opportunity to come alongside our Nigerien colleagues and help fund the construction of the building. In October, we will get to see the completed school with children filling the classrooms. I’m looking forward to that moment, but for Galadima and the other committee members this is only the beginning. Their vision extends beyond this one school building with three classrooms.
At one point during our tour, we stood in the doorway of a classroom looking out on the campus. Galadima used his walking stick to point to where the additional school buildings will be constructed. A new church will be in the center of it all. I couldn’t help smiling as he described with passion, enthusiasm and large hand gestures the future primary and middle schools and the great education the children will receive.